Avoiding the Sophomore Slump

Dec. 20, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — There’s always the fear that when freshmen become sophomores they may suffer through a “sophomore slump”. For UI women’s basketball player Morgan Johnson that’s not the case, as she has elevated her play through 11 games for the Hawkeyes.

The Platte City, Mo., native has been a stat-sheet stuffer for Iowa during her sophomore season, averaging 13 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. She’s shooting 57 percent from the floor, while also pacing the squad with 27 blocks.

“I am proud of Morgan Johnson,” said UI head coach Lisa Bluder following Iowa’s 65-54 win at South Dakota State. “She continues to elevate her game and get better and better.”

Johnson’s rise has been a pleasant surprise for the No. 15 ranked Hawkeyes, as the center is giving the team solid low post presence to team with All-America guard Kachine Alexander. The 6-5 center has reached double digits in each of the last four games and in 7-of-11 contests this season.

In Saturday’s victory over the Jackrabbits, Johnson scored a career-high 26 points to go along with seven rebounds. She connected on 9-of-12 field goal attempts, while making 8-of-10 free throws. It was her third 20-point outing this season.

Aside from being an offensive presence, Johnson has continued to evolve as a shot blocker for the Hawkeyes. She has 27 blocks this season after swatting a school and freshman record 79 during the 2009-10 season. Johnson has also done a good job minimizing her fouls to stay on the court in her sophomore campaign.

“I think she’s gotten a little bit smarter,” said Bluder. “At the beginning of the year, she was a little overzealous in her shot block opportunities. We want Morgan to block shots — she’s good at it. But when she has a foul, she maybe needs to taper off a little bit, depending on the time of the game.”

During the last four games, Johnson has been both smart and productive, as she’s been on the floor 33 minutes per contest. In the four contests, she’s averaging 17 points and nine rebounds, while shooting over 70 percent from the field.

She’s posted two of her three double-doubles during the streak, finishing with 16 points and 10 boards at No. 14 North Carolina and 16 points and 10 boards in the win over No. 15 Iowa State. Johnson has helped the Hawkeyes post a 10-1 record on the year and climb into the top-15 in the national rankings.

“Morgan just continues to get better,” reiterated Bluder. “She’s nearly averaging a double-double and shooting over 70 percent from the field over the past four games. Hopefully, that will carry on throughout the rest of the year.”

Hawkeye fans are thankful that Johnson has avoided the “sophomore slump”. They are also hoping that the center continues to perform at a high level with two in-state rivalry games slated for this week (Monday at Drake; Wednesday vs. Northern Iowa) and Big Ten play scheduled to begin on Dec. 30.